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Boy Swallows Battery; 65 Surgeries Later, He Can Finally Breathe on His Own

The Short of It

Do you know everything your baby or toddler has ever put into his mouth? Five-year-old Emmett Rauch is now doing most things a healthy kid does, but he has been through four years of suffering because of one tiny thing he put into his mouth at age 1.

The Lowdown

Like many toddlers, Emmett put things into his mouth often. Soon after Emmett turned 1 year old, he swallowed a nickel-sized, lithium battery from a DVD remote. He didn't choke. No one noticed.

On a Saturday, Emmett starting having a slight cough and fever. His mother, Karla Rauch, took him to the doctor, who thought it was just a cold. By Tuesday, Emmett was coughing up blood. This time, the pediatrician followed her gut and suggested taking Emmett to the ER.

An X-ray revealed the culprit. Emmett was rushed to Phoenix Children's Hospital. His first surgery took three hours, and the surgeon said that it looked like a "firecracker has gone off" in little Emmett's esophagus. The battery lodged itself one centimeter above his aorta, and the doctors weren't sure that he would survive.

Emmett lived in the ICU for most of 2011. He had 13 major surgeries. One took half of his stomach to recreate his esophagus, but the tissue didn't hold up.

In 2012, Emmett went to Cincinnati Children's Hospital for a rare surgery that removed his entire esophagus and used his colon to make a replacement esophagus. In December, he had his tracheostomy tube removed, and now he is breathing easier.

In his four short years, Emmett has had to endure 65 surgeries as a result of swallowing one tiny, lithium battery found in most homes.

The Upshot

In the process, Karla Rauch has become an outspoken activist spreading awareness about the dangers of cell batteries. Each year, more than 3,500 children are treated for swallowing batteries, and six children have died in the past six years.

If you think your child has swallowed a battery, go directly to the emergency room. Saliva triggers an electrical current and causes a chemical reaction that can burn the esophagus in two hours.

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